As we add more and more portable electronic devices to our lives, the issue of keeping them all charged becomes more and more a challenge.
While we’ve seen reasonable improvements in how to charge multiple devices from mains power outlets at home and work, and of course, external batteries such as this, the car remains largely an overlooked frontier.
Although some cars these days come with more than one ‘accessory power socket’ or whatever they call the thing formerly known as a cigarette lighter, even two or three sockets are often not enough. By the time you’ve connected your GPS, your satellite radio, maybe some other electronic accessory, and then added a charger or two for phones and other units, how many is that?
You can get cumbersome adapter units that take one socket and turn it into two or three – I know, because the front of my car is littered with such things, and a confusion of wires and bulky plugs and sockets. But they truly are messy and take up a lot of space.
There’s another dimension to the problem, too. Most in-car chargers are low current devices. Sure, they’ll charge your phone, but only S*L*O*W*L*Y, and that can be a problem if you’re driving somewhere and shortly before getting to your destination you realize your phone is really low on battery and you’re desperate to get it as topped up as possible in the five minutes remaining.
Furthermore, the problem becomes worse with a tablet. Some tablets won’t charge at all with less than 1.5A or more flowing in to them. They just sit there, and while it is great they’re not discharging any more, they’re not charging.
So, with these two problems – not enough charging outlets in a typical car and the under-powered nature of most accessory chargers, enter now Anker – a company and product range I’m finding I increasingly like – with a great new product.
It looks for all the world like a regular power adapter/charger thing that you stick into the accessory power socket in your car. But there are two important differences, and one equally important point of commonality.
The first difference is that it has two USB outlets, rather than just one. So you can charge two devices simultaneously from the one charger. That cuts down on cable and connector clutter in your car.
The second difference is that both the outlets are rated for up to 2.4A of current – in total, the device can give out as much as 4.8A simultaneously.
There’s a trick to this high current capacity. Both iOS/Apple and Android devices have additional control circuitry in them these days to regulate the amount of current flow they will accept when being recharged. If they are ‘talking’ to an intelligent charger that is compatible to their commands, they will allow faster charging; if they are talking to a generic charger, they throttle the charging rate down to a low speed.
This Anker unit has one port which is compatible with iOS devices for fast charging, and the other which supports Android devices for fast charging. You can plug anything into either port of course, and it will still charge, but for fastest charging of the latest generation of ‘intelligent’ charging units, you need to match the device to the appropriate port.
Anker proudly note that this device’s ability to push 4.8A in total charging current through its two ports makes it the most powerful in-car charger currently available. Well done, Anker.
Which brings me to the one thing that isn’t really much different between Anker and other single port low charge rate chargers. The price.
Amazingly, this unit sells for only $20 at Amazon (actually, for the pedants among us, $19.99), and probably with free shipping too.
That’s a great price for a great product. The product also comes with an instruction sheet, and Anker’s always-generous 18 month warranty.
As we get ever closer to Christmas, and start thinking more and more about what we give to people who we really have no idea what to buy for them, stocking stuffer items such as this have a great appeal. But, equally, be sure to stick one in each of your vehicles, too. I have one, plus four cables I bought and keep in the glove box – a new iOS, an old iOS, a micro USB and a mini USB. There’s almost nothing I can’t charge as a result.
People who drive with me love it too, and now they are in the habit of asking ‘Can I use your (whichever) cable and quickly charge my (whatever) while we’re driving?’.